Melancholia and Darkness: Martin Ander Interview

Melancholia and Darkness: Martin Ander Interview

Buying a new deck is one of the greatest feelings a skateboarder can experience. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most guilty. Especially in those moments just after walking out of the skateshop with a shining new deck that displays a thoughtful graphic with full knowledge that some artist poured their blood, sweat and tears into curating it. Without further ado, you head straight to the nearest flatbar and smear their work across a cold steel beam without even a second thought. For anyone that’s ever done this to a Flip Skateboard, odds are that the tragedy might have come at the expense of one of Swedish illustrator, Martin Ander’s graphics.

Luckily for guilty parties, the folks at Dokument Press have you covered as they proudly release their latest title, ‘Ouff! Mander Selected Works.’ Now, skaters, fans and art connoisseurs can keep a testament to the work of Ander’s 25+ year illustration career in the form of a hardcover publication without worrying about chipping any paint. Clocking in at just under a hundred pages, Ander has managed to cram over 200 original illustrations into the pages of this work and has supplemented text throughout to help carry the narrative. While we could take a stab at trying to articulate the allure of his thought-provoking work, it’s clearly better to let Ander’s illustrations speak for themselves. For that, the snapshots of this book provide a glimpse into what we’re talking about here.

In addition, we posed Ander with a few questions just before the title’s European release party. Ranging from his beginnings in the skateboarding world to eventual developments in the creative process, have a look at what Ander has to say about his efforts to make viewers go Ouff!

I thought one of the most important points from your press release was that the skateboard industry found your work. How exactly did your professional relationship with skateboarding industry begin?

Well, it came quite naturally, I’ve been skating since 1985 and know most of the skaters in my generation of skaters in Sweden, and everybody knows that I like skateboard graphics and draw a lot.

I did skate zines and did some illustrations for a skate mag here in Sweden long before I got to do graphics. My first paid job in the skateboard industry was drawing posters and illustrations for eighties pro freestyler, Per Holknekt’s, skate shop in Stockholm back in 1990.

In 2007, when my friend Martin Karlsson started a company called Bellows Skateboards, he asked me to do some graphics for them, they had the same distribution as Sweet Skateboards, which was one of the big skate companies in Sweden at the time. They saw my work for Bellows and asked me to do graphics for them too. After that came Seven Inch Skateboards from Finland and Polygon from Sweden which I was part owner of for a while.

Then I got the contact with Flip Skateboards via Ali Boulala, I contacted them and got to do lots of graphics for them too. That was about five or six years ago I think. I’ve always been freelance – I want to work with everybody. The past year I’ve done graphics for Sweet again, and both Sunrise and Scumfuc skateboards from Chile, Chrononaut from Sweden and RVCA.

Between huge names like Flip to smaller names like Polygon, are there any differences in your creative process when designing graphics for larger brands versus smaller brands?

All clients are different. The biggest difference is that I’m friends with most of the Swedish clients and their teams and they totally trust me to do something cool. In a small market, it doesn’t have to be as commercial. The decks will sell anyway and the team is stoked that I do their graphics. Working with a bigger company means more people involved, more opinions, more decks per series and of course, the need to follow the brand’s aesthetic idea more and to keep the team riders happy.

What’s the craziest part of seeing a wall full of boards displaying your work on them?

The coolest part is to see a kid picking down a board and looking at the graphic, just like i did when i was a kid with the VCJ and Jim Phillips graphics.

Can you explain any of the reasoning behind fusing what’s been referred to as “melancholia and darkness” with bright colors?

I don’t really put too much thought in to that. I’m not really a melancholic dude, but my work tends to be a little bit dark sometimes. Maybe its me just trying to make the images look a little bit more fun, or it’s the fact that I love old blacklight posters. My work is quite detailed – lots of things happening at the same time. By adding bright colors to it, I can make the important stuff ”pop” and tone down some of the not so important details.

Frida Talik’s account of your book describes how it provides an “insider view” to your work. How do you think it does that?

I myself buy a lot of books about artists, cartoonists and illustrators. And usually they don’t contain that much: one image per page, mostly stuff you have already seen and hardly any text. I wanted to give the audience what they pay for so in Ouff!, there’s one long interview, two shorter texts and over 300 images, camped in to 96 pages. I have not tried to just put the absolute best stuff for the coolest clients in the book, there’s a little bit of everything. Just like the life of an illustrator.

What was it like to take art that you would usually have endless canvas space for and consolidate/reformat it for the purposes of the book?

At first it was hard. Most of my images is drawn to be pretty big and I had to scale them down to fit in the book. I had to think of every spread as an art piece in itself and [think of] the images in it [as] parts of a bigger picture, not art pieces themselves. It was the opposite from showing in a galley, where every piece hangs by itself on a white wall. I was afraid that I would lose the details in some of the images, but I think it worked out great. You don’t read a book the same way you read a poster or a skate graphic.

Any parting words about the book/your artistic career that you’d like to share?

The book is called Ouff! Mander Selected Works. It dropped in Europe on Sept. 20, and drops in the USA/rest of the world on Oct 25. Follow me on Instagram for new work: @manderoid

All photos provided and authorized and provided by Dokument Press and Martin Ander. Portrait photo shot by Petter Danielsson.

Female Fronted: Proper Gnar

Female Fronted: Proper Gnar

Female skateboarders deserve more attention. Proper attention. Same goes for females in the similarly male-oriented world of streetwear who have the drive to make a name for themselves and the ambition to release their work for the world to judge. That being said, someone making a dedicated effort in both of these circles definitely deserves a bit of shine. Enter: Latosha Stone, Owner of Proper Gnar.

As the name implies, Proper Gnar is a women’s skate and streetwear brand dedicated to creating original designs and broadcasting original skateboarding in a way that Stone feels is currently neglected. In her own words, she described the significance of the name by explaining, “It just means being good at what you do. Shredding in your own way. Having the right amount of stoke. A perfect world where you have enough time to do all your responsibilities and still have time to skate.”

To skateboarding’s credit, there is a growing collective of names like Yulin Oliver, Kristin Ebling and Valeria Kechichian who are making it their mission to spearhead efforts that advocate for genuine representation and equality for women in the scene. These movements, along with Proper Gnar, are all admirable strides that have pushed women more towards the forefront of attention in skate culture than ever before. Needless to say, however, there is plenty of room for improvement. With a resounding collective of men in positions of power within the industry and the general number or participants still overwhelmingly male-centric, the odds of a women achieving something close to equal opportunity within skateboarding is, in many ways, still far off.

The parallels for the streetwear game are comparable. In a culture where men dominate top positions at the most revered streetwear companies, the same holds true at the grassroots level. In the case of Proper Gnar, Stone has often felt this dynamic as one of, if not the only woman exhibiting at various local streetwear popups. Add this to the fact that women have been sexualized time and time again in streetwear photography and degraded on the hang tags of even the most respected skateboarding companies and it becomes clear just how much an uphill battle there still is in order to shift this narrative.

In the middle of both these worlds and the middle of the country itself, Proper Gnar exists to try to put a foot down and use it to push forward both literally and figuratively. Based in Ohio, Stone is aware of her distance from the usual cultural epicenters for both skate and streetwear in LA and NYC. Still, with a handful of fashion schools, up and coming brands and stockists for industry leading brands situated in the larger cities including Columbus and Cleveland, there’s still a decent amount of cultural influence that makes it’s way to middle America. Speaking on what the balance between both sides of the United States is like, Stone told us, “It’s different! Ohio, being in the middle of the country, finds a way to take a little bit from everybody and make it their own.”

With a ripping all-girls team of riders, a considerable Instagram following and some well deserved press coverage behind the brand, the originality of Proper Gnar’s lineup seems to be working well and speaking for itself. One look at their packed web store displays not only a range of deck graphics but also an expansive collection of pieces ranging from hoodies to socks to pins and even a few art pieces.

As for the future for Proper Gnar, Stone will be taking her efforts to the streets where she’s recently began offering skate lessons to local girls in Ohio. In addition to getting more rippers on board herself, Stone also has aspirations to support some of the charities that are working to bring skateboarding to positive new heights. Plus, even though she is without definitive plans, Stone admitted, “I know a ton of people that moved to LA and it’s probably in my future too.”

For the time being, we wanted to conclude by asking Stone to leave us with some words of parting advice regarding how best to interact with female skaters whether in the streets or the parks. Speaking on this, Stone advised, “Don’t talk to / come at us unless it’s respectful. Don’t treat us differently because we are women, or assume we can’t skate, or only do it to attract dudes. And stop asking us if we can kickflip! I also wanna say they should give more respect to trans skaters too, the comments they get sometimes are even worse.”

To show some love to Proper Gnar, check out their web store here or follow their latest updates over on Instagram here.

Crafted By Hand: Hunt Skateboards

Crafted By Hand: Hunt Skateboards

When you think of old school-styled cruiser boards made in Australia, it’s tough not to have the name Penny come to mind. However, the crew behind Victoria-based, Hunt Skateboards has a completely different project on their hands that combines modern versatility with the glory of 50s/60s skate nostalgia.

At first glance, these boards look similar to the Skee Skate by Tresco but with a contemporary, hand crafted finish and a set of trucks and wheels that look like they could handle far more than the metal wheeled contraptions of decades past. Nevertheless, Founder Alex Hunt claims that it was not one specific board that inspired their hallmark shape, but rather a general appreciation of skateboard manufacturers from that era that has given Hunt Skateboards their direction.

Speaking on the creative process, he told us, “The shape we ended up with actually evolved through trial and error when we were developing our concepts back in 2014. We had tried everything; every shape, style, type as a means of being innovative but we were always drawn back to the basics – the hardwood cruiser – I guess it has a nostalgic quality that can’t be tainted.”

With a tried and true model as the base, the allure of Hunt Skateboards stems from the updated maneuverability that these boards bring to the table. Upon first push, these boards are inherently easy to pick up and ride. As such, their style has been described as something in between a longboard and a Penny Skateboard. These things are designed with speed in mind and come with all the carving abilities to make it happen. They also handle with optimal responsiveness and are resistant to speed wobbles. For a casual cruiser, Hunt Skateboards check all the right boxes.

When it comes to those who have put their boards to the test, Hunt claims their customers range from hipsters to hardcore skaters to surfers to casual skaters of all ages. In line with their vision of creating an accessible ride for all – this is exactly the clientele that Hunt was shooting for. “When we were developing Hunt Skateboards, our primary focus was to develop not only a board that felt perfect under the feet, but also one that suited the broad spectrum of skaters, from beginners to advanced,” Hunt added.

As for the minds behind the brand, Alex Hunt and his partner, Caitlin Jostlear, interestingly ran the operation out of their van for the entirety of 2017. Equipped with a batch of blank decks, the pair set off on a 12 month road trip across the country, putting the finishing touches on boards and selling them as they went. Through their travels, they were able to remarkably get their boards under the feet of skaters in every state in Australia.

By the end of the excursion, van life had run it’s course as the Hunt Skateboards operation left the road with a head full of life lessons and a grip of common sense to continue their endeavors with. Now, instead of a lifestyle of long term travel, the team is about to settle into a sizable headquarters of their own. With half of the space dedicated to a workshop and the other half dedicated as a show room/hang out space, the plans for a new working environment sound like they’ll be the perfect place to further foster Hunt’s craftsmanship. Along with the new space, the team is also gearing up for the release of new hardware featuring the brand’s signature branding.

From there, the future of Hunt Skateboards will be driven by the pursuit of finding good times and celebrating the means of reaching them. To sum this vision up, Hunt concluded by telling us, “We are deeply engaged in what has always fueled the overall culture of skating/surfing and that is its creative, laid-back attitude to seeking a good time and release. With respect to the innovative, forward thinking skateboard manufacturers – to us, it is about keeping it simple and staying true to the core values of the industry. That is, as we have said to others before you, to the likes of when the skateboard was fist invented; it wasn’t about designing something new, rather finding an alternative to surfing when there were no waves. This is what we celebrate – a collective that is about enjoying life and appreciating something that allows one to do so.”